Guest post: COI on Eritrea

The following is a guest post by Elisa Mason, originally published on the Forced Migration Current Awareness Blog.

The release of the Danish Immigration Service’s original fact-finding mission report on Eritrea and the subsequent controversy (see here and here) that erupted regarding the report’s methodology and conclusions are the focus of a new article in the Oxford Monitor of Forced Migration. Here’s the abstract for “The Eritrea Report: Symbolic Uses of Expert Information in Asylum politics”:

This paper discusses the role of country of origin information (COI) in asylum policies by examining the debate about a controversial Danish report on Eritrea that has been used to attempt to legitimise a restrictive turn in Danish asylum policy. Following substantial criticism, Danish authorities changed their policy interpretation of the report and returned to their former practice when dealing with asylum applications made by Eritreans. Nevertheless, the number of Eritrean applications lodged in Denmark has since dropped sharply and the report has influenced other asylum receiving states in Europe. The Eritrea case suggests that COI may function as a potential means of deterrence and that the boundaries between COI and policy goals blur easily, such that the production of knowledge becomes a site of political negotiation.

As the article notes, various other entities have since published their own country of origin information reports on Eritrea, including the UK Home Office. There have also been a number of analyses and assessments of these reports which shed light on the COI process and highlight good practice when undertaking this type of research. I’ve listed several of these COI reports, in chronological order, with links to related reviews & commentaries:

UK Home Office (March 2015):
- Country Information and Guidance – Eritrea: Illegal Exit [text via Refworld]
- Country Information and Guidance – Eritrea: National (incl. Military) Service [text via Refworld]

- A Commentary on the March 2015 Country Information and Guidance Reports Issued on Eritrea (Still Human, Still Here, 1 May 2015) [text via Refworld] (note: this includes a detailed critique of the Danish Immigration Service report)
- Report by the Independent Advisory Group on Country Information on Eritrea Country Information and Guidance Reports Produced by the UK Home Office (13 May 2015) [text] (note: this also includes an assessment of the Danish report)
- Letter to the UK Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration on Flawed UK Country Information and Guidance Reports on Eritrea (Human Rights Watch, 1 July 2015) [text]
- UK: Flawed Policy on Eritrean Refugee Claims (Human Rights Watch, 2 July 2015) [text]
- The True Human Rights Situation in Eritrea: The New UK Home Office Guidance as a Political Instrument for the Prevention of Migration, Working Paper, no. 14 (Refugee Law Initiative, July 2015) [text]
- UK Home Office Guidance on Eritrea: An Instrument to Refuse Protection? (Right to Remain Blog, 26 Aug. 2015) [text]
- “Britain Refusing Asylum to Eritreans on Back of Discredited Report,” The Guardian, 10 Sept. 2015 [text]

European Asylum Support Office (EASO) (May 2015):
- Country of Origin Information Report: Eritrea: Country Focus [text]

- ARC and DCR Comments on the EASO Country of Origin Information Report: Eritrea Country Focus (12 Aug. 2015) [text via Refworld]

Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry (June 2015):
- Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea, UN Doc. No. A/HRC/29/42 (UN Human Rights Council, June 2015) [text via Refworld]
- Report of the Detailed Findings of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea, UN Doc. No. A/HRC/29/CRP.1 (UN Human Rights Council, June 2015) [text via Refworld]

- Eritrea Rights Report Prompts Protection Rethink (IRIN, 10 June 2015) [text]
- Damning Findings of Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea Require Urgent Response (Amnesty International, 16 June 2015) [text]

UK Home Office (Sept. 2015)
Note: The UK Home Office has re-issued its two reports previously published in March 2015:
- Country Information and Guidance – Eritrea: Illegal Exit [text]
- Country Information and Guidance – Eritrea: National (incl. Military) Service [text]

- The Independent Advisory Group on Country Information has issued a call for tenders to evaluate these reports. The application deadline is 24 September 2015.

Observations about COI collections:
- Refworld has removed the original Danish Immigration Service report from its COI collection on Eritrea, while has retained it (along with links to various critiques) and the updated version issued by the DIS.
- The UK Home Office provides access only to its most recent country information and guidance on Eritrea (i.e., Sept. 2015), while Refworld and keep all earlier versions of the UK Home Office reports in their collections.
- This raises an interesting question about balancing the need for currency and precedence (when one report supersedes another) and the importance of maintaining a record (to document policy shifts, changes over time, etc.). What is the primary responsibility of the repository?

Original URL of this post:

Comment by ACCORD/ on this:

This is what we think about the question on the role of COI repositories in this regard:

While aims to provide easy access to high-quality COI, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information we gather. We do not corroborate the reports we collect.
We try to minimize the delay between the publication of a report by a source and us adding it to But we do not remove outdated data.
We see our task in collecting information. It is up to our users to corroborate and assess this information regarding accuracy and currency. Older reports, even out-dated ones, can still be of relevance when a user needs information about the past – either to analyse changes over time, or because the case requires information on what the situation was years ago.

When we learn of some source commenting another source’s report (as was the case for the DIS report on Eritrea), or is superseded by another version, we try to pass this information on to our users by including reciprocal links between the documents concerned.

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